Erstwhile HRT team principal Colin Kolles has announced a return to front-line motorsport, partnering the Lotus brand in the new FIA World Endurance Championship.
The Kolles family team, Kodewa, has confirmed that it will apply Lotus branding to the latest Lola LMP technology, after entering a pair of the Huntingdon marque's new B12/80 LMP2 Coupes for the recently-launched sportscar series. The deal follows Lotus's decision to put its own LMP2 programme on permanent hold last summer.
The Kodewa team will bring F1 experience to the WEC as Kolles keeps together a large proportion of the German-based operation used to run HRT through the first two years of its existence. The Thesan Capital-owned team is planning to relocate to its 'native' Spain for 2012, prompting Kolles to look for another outlet for his workforce. The operation will be headed up by Kolles' father Romulus, who helped Kodewa run a brace of customer Audi LMPs at Le Mans in 2009-10.
“This is a very exciting step for us,” Lotus motorsport boss Claudio Berro commented, “We made no secret of our intention to tackle LMP2 this year, but it had to be done in the right way, [and] we're very happy with the set-up with our partners.”
The closed-cockpit Lola design will be powered by BMW-built five-litre engines badged by the Lotus Group, in the same way as those that the iconic marque will use in its new IndyCar Series programme. Both Kodewa cars will run in the iconic black-and-gold livery made famous by the 1970s and '80s JPS-backed F1 cars, and revived in 2011 by the former Renault team following its own link-up with Proton-owned Group Lotus.
Lola continued to provide a benchmark in LMP racing last season, having taken both the Le Mans Series and American Le Mans Series manufacturers' titles. It was provided the first petrol-powered LMP car to finish last year's Le Mans 24 Hours, coming home sixth overall with Rebellion Racing, which this week confirmed former Lotus Renault F1 driver Nick Heidfeld among its driving strength for 2012. The Kodewa cars will feature the latest Lola development bodywork, which has been refined in the company's on-site 50 per cent scale wind tunnel in Huntingdon.
"We have had a very successful winter at Lola, with eight LMP cars having been ordered," executive chairman Martin Birrane said, "We believe that new entries in sportscars are recognising the technical capabilities and iconic brand of Lola.
"It is pleasing that Kodewa, sponsored by Lotus, has chosen Lola to compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship, including the Le Mans 24 hours, this year."
No drivers have yet been announced for the campaign, which gets it season underway with a single entry at the Sebring 12 Hours over the weekend of 17 March. A second car is expected to be added for round two of the WEC at Spa-Francorchamps in May.